The stretch of Interstate 40 from Memphis to Nashville is considered one of the richest areas of musical history and influence in the country. These 200 miles, often referred to as the Music Highway, are the ultimate road trip for any music lover. From Elvis and Johnny Cash to Tina Turner and Carl Perkins, there’s no shortage of historical stops spanning all types of music along the drive. These 10 destinations are must-sees on any trip down the Music Highway.
1. Graceland – Memphis
Graceland draws hundreds of thousands of visitors yearly and is the complete Elvis experience. The estate has been kept much like it was when Elvis lived there. Take a guided tour through the famous jungle room, see the impressive automobile collection, and even climb aboard his custom jet. The world’s most famous rock-n-roll residence is the perfect start to your road trip.
2. Sun Studios – Memphis
This National Historic Landmark is where Rock-N-Roll got its start. Opened in 1950 by engineer Sam Phillips, the studio was frequented by artists like Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Take a tour & see where their iconic songs were created.
3. Stax Museum – Memphis
The Stax Museum of American Soul Music sits at the former location of the famed Stax Records. The museum celebrates the artists who created the Memphis Sound like Otis Redding, Booker T. & the MGs, Carla Thomas, and Isaac Hayes. It features videos, photographs, original instruments used on Stax hits, interactive exhibits, and even the dance floor from the TV show Soul Train.
4. Tina Turner Museum – Brownsville
The museum for the self-described “Queen of Rock-N-Roll” sits in the one-room school house she attended as a child. Opened in 2014, it houses the largest collection of Tina Turner memorabilia in the world. Visitors can see the dress she wore for the 50th anniversary of the Grammys, a replica of the stage from her “Wildest Dreams” tour, and even a letter that Prince Charles wrote after seeing her in concert.
5. International Rockabilly Hall of Fame – Jackson
This museum houses a large collection of photos and memorabilia spanning the entire history of rockabilly music. Visitors can see unique videos, view life-size oil paintings of rockabilly stars, catch a show at the outdoor pavilion, and even take line dance lessons from the Rockabilly Rockers Dance Team on Monday nights. Be sure to check out the outdoor mural that depicts the expansion of rockabilly music around the world.
6. Casey Jones Village – Jackson
This is the last known residence of the legendary train engineer made famous by the folk tune “The Ballad of Casey Jones”. The song has been recorded dozens of times, most notably by Johnny Cash and The Grateful Dead. In addition to his home, the village features a train museum and southern restaurant.
7. Patsy Cline Memorial – Camden
This memorial sits at the site of the tragic plane crash that took the singer’s life in 1963. The memorial is simple, but meaningful, featuring photographs and articles related to the crash.
8. Loretta Lynn’s Ranch – Hurricane Mills
Hurricane Mills is home to not one, but five different Loretta Lynn museums. Most visitors choose to tour the Coal Miner’s Daughter Museum, which features a large collection of memorabilia from throughout her career. The pavilion is a hot-spot for concerts featuring Loretta and other members of the Lynn family. Check the events calendar to catch a show while you visit.
9. RCA Studio B – Nashville
This iconic studio became famous in the 1960s for creating what is known as the Nashville Sound and putting Nashville on the map as a recording center. It is said that over 1,000 hits have been recorded in this studio, including over 200 Elvis songs. Take a tour for a glimpse of what put Nashville on the map.
10. Ryman Auditorium – Nashville
The “Mother Church of Country Music” is the perfect place to end your road trip. The Ryman is best known for being the home of The Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1972, and still plays host to the weekly show in winter months. Stop in for a behind-the-scenes tour and stand on the legendary stage yourself. You can even step into the recording studio and cut your own CD!